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Two years ago at this time, few city residents would have predicted that Alvin E. Thompson would have any chance of besting longtime State Rep. Saundra M. Graham in an election campaign. He did.
But in 1990, it appears that Thompson may be on his way out of the State House sooner than he expected.
Thompson, who rode a wave of anti-Graham sentiment to a narrow victory in the Democratic primary in Cambridge's 28 Middlesex District, may now face a tough battle to retain his seat, which represents Riverside, Cambridgeport, Agassiz, MIT and parts of Harvard.
Although few have criticized Thompson's voting record, he has come under attack for what some constituents perceive as inaccessability and a lack of leadership. And Cambridge attorney Larry Beeferman has already announced his candidacy, charging that the one-term incumbent has failed to meet the needs of his community.
"He has articulated no vision," says Beeferman, the only announced. challenger to Thompson to date. "There is a crisis of confidence about the willingness of the state government to do what needs to be done.
"There is no evidence that the incumbent is dealing with the problem," Beeferman says.
In defense, Thompson points to a voting record which he says is "100 percent on human services issues." The charge of inaccessability, he says, is patently false.
"Everyone who calls, I return a phone call. Everyone who writes, I write back," says Thompson. "I am accessible and open to the people."
But some of Thompson's strongest supporters from the 1988 campaign now say they would think twice before voting again for the one-term incumbent.
"Those of us involved in the effort to get out Saundra Graham as a state rep. had no illusions. We felt he would be a representative and he has been," says Lester P. Lee Jr., who ran Thompson's 1988 campaign.
Although Thompson has unerringly voted the progressive plat-form, Lee maintains that Thompson is not an "advocate" for his constituents. In the midst of a fiscal crisis that threatens to limit state aid to the city, he says, a better leader is necessary.
Graham lost the 1988 primary by 51 votes, on a rainy Thursday after running a sluggish campaign effort. Although Thompson bested her handily as a write-in candidate for the general election, much of his support came from city voters disillusioned with Graham's record.
"Alvin was narrowly elected by fluke," says Glenn S. Koocher '71, a prominent city Republican. "He was never allied with the progressives dispite his liberal voting record. He never paid his dues and carries excess political baggage such as a series of no-show or no-heavy-lifting jobs," says Koocher.
Thompson also drew flak late last year when he took back his former job as a safety specialist at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. He inititially left the post in 1988, after he was elected to the State House, saying he wanted to be a full time representative. He had previously criticized Graham for holding down jobs as both a city councillor and a state representative.
But Thompson cites the high cost of running his office as good reasons for the part-time job. "I have not shirked my reponsibility, most representatives work full time," he says.
But even so, the move may have cost Thompson political allies.
"I was annoyed with his efforts to get the job at the school department," says Lee. "I am concerned about patronage jobs, I am not going to play a role in his campaign."
"People feel the seat is open," says Lee. "Given the dynamics of the district, if a strong woman candidate emerges, she would take it. It is a small feminist district," says Lee.
When she conceded her seat to Thompson in 1988, Graham carefully left the door open for a comeback. But Koocher discounts as unlikely the possibility of a fall Graham campaign.
Others are not so sure.
"I don't know what she's going to do," says Lee. "I wouldn't put it past her. I think the reason she's not joined the race is that no one has asked her."
Another candidates mentioned as a possible challenger for the seat is Vice Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves '72. Former School Committee member Rena H. Leib and current member Henrietta Davis were rumored to be considering runs, but both said this week they would not enter the race.
No one is discounting the Beeferman canditacy either.
"Larry Beeferman is a formidable candidate with a firm articulation of the issues," says Koocher, pointing out that with degrees in both law and physics, Beeferman will appeal to an intellectual consituency.
Beeferman's only limitation, says Koocher, is the fact that he lost his 1982 race for representative badly.
But Lee contends that Thompson is far from finished in the 28 Middlesex District. "He is vunerable of course, and he owes a victory to anti-Graham sentiment," Lee says. "But he has not done anything to embarrass the district.
"If suddenly he became a flaming right winger it might be different," says Lee.
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